As Russell Westbrook exits failed Lakers tenure, is his career nearing the end?

LOS ANGELES — Hours after the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers are relieved as things are a little lighter and more relaxed.

The simple answer points to Russell Westbrook’s departure after a year and a half of awkward moments, silent accusations, and future Hall of Famers not coming together despite promises they would.

Westbrook and several other Lakers were sent to different contracts, changing personnel, perhaps chemistry, and at least the optimism associated with the remaining two months of the season.

Trades tend to do this, especially for underperforming teams, especially teams desperate for a chance in the big markets when they’re constantly being watched by the NBA, especially in the midst of a relentless goal chase.

A trail of rumor followed Westbrook on his journey out of town, and days before the deadline for the deal, the groundwork was being laid for such an event. In a way, it could be said that he was playing right into the hands of his worst perception, his playing was no longer superior enough to justify the egregious problems that have always accompanied Westbrook’s roller coaster.

Lakers head coach Darwin Ham has always played directly with Westbrook, as he has promised to do with every player since the day he was hired. Westbrook’s defiance was a trademark, and the point of view—outside or inside—depends more on the outcome than the point of view.

If he scores a triple-double, he relies on his self-confidence and blocks anyone who has the audacity to suggest a different approach. When he struggled, and in some cases he did well, it was his stubbornness and lack of responsibility that held him back.

Westbrook never acknowledged his limitations, even in his heyday. For the Lakers, expecting something else meant they hadn’t seen his films—about 15 years of films.

Russell Westbrook is likely to head into the buyout market after being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers this week.  (AP Photo/Lynn Sladky)
Russell Westbrook is likely to head into the buyout market after being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers this week. (AP Photo/Lynn Sladky)

Westbrook doesn’t seem to fully understand where he is in his career, and this misconception is not uncommon among aging players. The wayward passes and the number of triples – almost four per game at a 29% clip – don’t quite scream “awareness”. Playing in his hometown, in front of family and friends, probably gave him a level of nervousness and expectations that he couldn’t live up to.

And when things went downhill, the more he lowered himself, the more determined he became to prove people wrong, even if he was never right.

Where he’s headed now – most likely to the buyout market, where he’ll try to secure a foothold with another team for the remainder of the season – is often the first salvo of a player about to retire.

There was palpable disappointment with Westbrook, and that it escalated into a tête-à-tête with Ham on Tuesday did not come as a shock to those who have been aware of the dynamics of the entire season, sources told Sportzshala Sports.

There was a strange atmosphere around the Lakers on Tuesday, a celebratory night when LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Whether it’s Westbrook and his performance or Anthony Davis showing what looked like bad body language when James broke the record, a real broom and dustpan was subsequently needed.

Ham would not say what kind of rhetoric he had heard about Davis over the past day or so, but said: “What was being reported was absolutely not true. And I’ll just leave it there.”

It was in the Lakers’ pregame game against Milwaukee. Davis didn’t even want to be asked about it after the game, but he said he was disappointed that the Lakers lost the game they needed to win to keep up with the opponent they’re up against, Oklahoma City. “. Thunder.

During James’s 35th and 36th, he actually drove the Lakers to five at the bottom of the third 104-99.

It’s hard to assume that Ham or Davis weren’t being honest, but it definitely seems like there was more to it than was said – whether it was Westbrook or something much more layered is anyone’s guess at this point.

And silent about everything else in Lakerland.

The Lakers really figured it out, all things considered. The acquisition of D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba – four rotation players in addition to the recent signing of Rui Hachimura – has at least changed the outlook for the immediate future.

This was in stark contrast to the Bucks, a team that has been tinkering around but not making massive changes in some time. They acquired Jay Crowder after a deal with Kevin Durant, but rely on continuity and a certain level of corporate expertise to stay at or near the top of the East.

Anyway, they know who they are.

The Lakers are desperate for that knowledge and believe they have changed the rules by sending Westbrook elsewhere. Teams receive occasional pushes throughout the season, and it took nearly two years for the Lakers to negotiate the James/Davis/Westbrook partnership.

The Los Angeles Lakers' pairing of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook seemed doomed from the start.  (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Lakers pairing of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook seemed doomed from the start. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Remember the wild scene in Detroit last season in November when James and Pistons center Isaiah Stewart got hit, resulting in a bloody Stewart wrestling with assistant coaches to get into James’ airspace?

Well, the Lakers won that game and vowed that it would be the turning point of their season, that it would inspire them. This did not happen, but there were other milestones that inspired similar optimism.

They no longer need to lie to themselves about it. It seemed doomed from the start, with little chance of success even if James and Westbrook were 10 years younger and in their full athletic prime.

Westbrook will have to rethink his views if he wants his career to continue, or if he wants another chapter to close it.

But the Lakers, who are closer in the standings to a Victor Wembanyama prank than a West penthouse, are also having heartfelt and honest conversations among themselves.


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